Maybe it was when you hopped on the back of a motorbike, strapped on your helmet, and revved your way through Vietnam’s countryside. Or it could have been the time that you plummeted yourself off a bridge, relying on nothing but a mere rope to save yourself from the rushing river hundreds of meters below. It could have even been that stack of National Geographic magazines piled up in the corner of your apartment, taunting you every time you crossed paths with it.
Whatever it was, you have decided to pursue your dream and start an adventure travel business(opens in a new tab). The only question is…now what?
You could dive into the industry head first, or you could give yourself a leg up and take a look at our tips and tricks for starting your own adventure travel business. (We recommend the latter.) Keep reading for ways to get started. If you’re looking for inspiration for your company, you should check out 101 Tour Ideas for Your Business(opens in a new tab).
1. DEFINE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Before you start your own adventure business, you need to understand the nature of the business. According to Adventures in Good Company(opens in a new tab), ‘Many people want to start travel companies because they love to be outdoors and/or they love to travel. There is a difference between loving those and wanting to be the guide responsible for other people loving those.’
To ease your transition from being a traveller to travel operator, make sure that you find a niche in the industry that you are passionate about. This will allow you to focus on creating a program that will excite you and thus, create a bridge of empathy between the operator (you) and the client.
2. KNOW YOUR ADVENTURE SERVICE INSIDE AND OUT
Now that you have defined the travelling niche you would like to focus on, get to know it! Be an expert on the service you are selling and the area that you are selling it in. Tung, the owner of XO tours(opens in a new tab) in Vietnam, has done exactly this: with his blog(opens in a new tab), he gives his current and future clients a bounty of insider tips and tricks for when they visit Vietnam.
Once you have a solid understanding of the exact service you’re selling, make sure that you become the guinea pig for it: experience the service, go on the tour. Be the client. Dan Austin explains in his interview(opens in a new tab) with Austin Adventures that he never wants ‘to put guests on a trip unless one of us has run the program start to finish…sometimes we invite our alumni to join us the first time we run a trip with guests; we call these “First Ascents”. Typically, on a First Ascent, either Paul or I (or both) will have developed the trip and run it through at least once without guests, tweaking along the way.’
3. ASK ADVENTURE INDUSTRY LEADERS
It is never a bad idea to ask for advice from someone who has a successful adventure business, who has been in your shoes and made a success of themselves. Before you get completely immersed in a situation that you can’t get out of, ask the advice of leaders in the adventure industry that have perfected their craft. Sit down and do some research about who to contact and what to ask, and just start calling. You might hit some dead-ends, but more likely than not, people will want to help you out.
With at least three responses from industry leaders, you might just avoid some pitfalls that could have severely hindered your business’s success.
4. LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS’ INTERESTS
Once you’ve become an expert on your niche and are itching to expand, look to your customers for new ideas. What kind of services do they want? Where do they want to go? What do they want out of a tour? Not only will they prove to be a great resource for idea generation, but they will also help sell your business for you. During an interview with Business News Daily, Ciclismo Classico(opens in a new tab)’s CEO and founder Lauren Hefferon said that ‘word of mouth is powerful in the adventure travel industry,’ estimating that 30 percent of her clients come through adventure travel clientele.
5. DEVELOP AN EFFECTIVE WEB PRESENCE
Hefferon mentions 30%, but where does the other 70% come from? This is where things get a bit tricky. Good marketing techniques play a huge role in increasing your clientele base. Your marketing campaign is guaranteed to be a time-consuming task. It will require money that you might not have. All the same, it is crucial that you invest in your company from the get-go.
That being said, there are many ways to spread awareness of your brand. Social media is an obvious yet effective way to target potential clients. Another integral strategy is to build a website that optimises sales-focused principles. Unfortunately, custom websites can cost you well over $10,000. Luckily, we can provide you with a cheaper option.
With Tourism Tiger, your company will benefit from a website that utilises an efficient and proven method to reach your target audience, which will in turn lead to increased sales — and it will cost much less than your typical web designer’s fee. Get in touch(opens in a new tab) if you’d like to learn more or chat to one of our experts.
6. PUT EMPHASIS ON QUALITY EVEN IF THAT REQUIRES SPENDING MORE MONEY
Not only should you listen to your customers, you should ensure that your customers leave with the impression that they have had the time of their lives. This means that you should go above and beyond their expectations. Does the trip coincide with one of your customer’s birthdays? Celebrate them with a gift related to the tour’s theme. Offering a brunch after a hot-air-balloon ride? Provide your guests with a homemade, locally sourced meal in a scenic location rather than taking them to a standard, possibly lacklustre, restaurant.
While this may prove to be more costly initially, it will create memorable experiences which could lead to repeat business and referrals — key factors to ensure a successful business, as we discussed in point 4.
7. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
One of the greatest risks in the travel adventure business is the exorbitant amount of variables. Unlike most other industries, the travel adventure sector is largely influenced by things like weather, forest fires, government closures, and regulations of destinations. In order to prevent disappointed customers who have invested time and money on the trip, conduct a ‘what if’ analysis of existing plans. Explore different variables that could impact the trip and prepare contingency plans for each and every possible outcome. Keep record of the contingency plans and continually evaluate and adjust the plan to ensure that your guest will leave with a smile even if Lady Luck has dealt you a bad hand.